If naughty really is the new nice, as they say, then I have two irreverent theatrical treats for you this holiday season. Tir Na’s RETURN OF THE WINEMAKER (@ Davis Square Theatre through Dec. 20th) and Lyric Stage’s BUYER & CELLAR (through Jan.3rd) will give you enough giggles to forget (momentarily anyway) the troubles of the world.
Bernard McMullan’s wild “Irish Christmas Comedy” introduces yet another Messiah myth to the canon: This time out, Mary and Joseph stop into an Irish pub to find a place for Mary to give birth. She does, and the two high-tail it out of town, leaving the infant Jesus in the care of a childless barkeep and his wife. At first, the couple is overjoyed. Then they’re overwhelmed by Jesus’ vexing propensity for trouble. The poor child lacks good judgment and any sense of decorum. But when he ruins their water heater by turning its contents into wine, they begin to see the light. Problem is, now God wants the winemaker back.
Carmel O’Reilly directs the lively spoof with special attention to character detail. Derry Woodhouse as Jesus does not disappoint: From toddler to teenager, each new phase of his development is a vision of spectacular ineptitude. And Stephen Russell’s God is a rock star. What else can you say: the Dude abides.
Nancy E. Carroll has several hilarious roles, as adoptive mother, as Jesus’ sovereign step-mother and as a scheming old nun. Colin Hamell runs roughshod over the lot as the deliciously unconscionable barkeep…who fully intends to outwit God in a battle of wills. (And he can dance a mean gigue.) It’s all blissfully silly and you get some nifty songs (including an Irish favorite) in the bargain! What’s not to like?
Jonathan Tolins’ one man show about meeting Barbra Streisand has Phil Tayler front and center in a tour de force as an out of work actor employed by the superstar to manage her shops. (People who need people are out of luck unless they have limitless funds to hire someone to amuse them.) Streisand does have a personal shopping mall in the cellar of her barn. That’s a fact. The rest of the play isn’t factual. Tolins stresses this point because the last thing he needs is trouble from “someone so famous, talented and litigious.”
Tayler has a twinkle in his eye and a seductive slow motion double take to make us complicit in his adventure. Tolins’ script has Tayler totally smitten with Barbra but his boyfriend is decidedly not. Tayler plays Barry, the boyfriend, as the devil’s advocate (sounding suspiciously like David Sedaris). The battle over Barbra is half the fun. The other half is comprised of everyone else, Herself included (which he achieves by miraculously lengthening his finger nails and drawing them over Barbra’s imaginary tresses).
Courtney O’Connor directs the piece with breakneck speed: Tayler turns on a dime to become a different character. It’s quite an “aspirational” feat, to borrow one of Tolins’ clever viewpoints. You’ll be wowed by Tayler’s transformations and highly amused by his chutzpah. What’s not to like?